Ziegler, was originally published by Stanley Paul in 1951. Sixty-five years
later I have digitised the book and made it available as a paperback, epub and
pdf book. My sincere thanks to John Marwood who proofread the book most
painstakingly for me. Webster and Anne tell the exciting story of their rise to
fame, and their sensational romance. After Webster’s divorce from Paddy Prior,
his second wife, he and Anne married and became the most popular duettists of
their day, earning them the deserved title of Sweethearts of Song.
The book is also available as an ebook at My Duettist’s Bookstore
Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth were versatile singers so it is difficult to
name just one duet or solo as an all-time favourite. Webster recorded far more
solo recordings than he did duets with Anne, although he is largely remembered
today because of the duets.
In Webster’s case there are light songs with British Dance Bands led by
Jack Hylton, Carroll Gibbons, Debroy Somers, Ray Noble, as the anonymous “with
vocal refrain” with the accordion band of Carlos Santana (one of the many
pseudonyms adopted by the equally versatile musician, Harry Bidgood), and the
popular Fred Hartley’s Quintet or Sextet. He also sang in medleys, sometimes on
his own or with singers like Janet Lind, Garda Hall, Magda Neeld, Marjorie
Stedeford, Stuart Robertson, Sam Costa, Olive Groves, and Nora Savage.
As his singing career progressed he began recording more serious songs,
and arias from opera and oratorio. In operatic ensembles he was partnered with
singers like Norman Walker, Dennis Noble, Joan Hammond, Joan Cross, Noel Eadie,
Nancy Evans, Arnold Matters and Edith Coates. Conductors of these recordings
included Warwick Braithwaite, Laurance Collingwood and Malcolm Sargent, and
accompanists included Gerald Moore, Herbert Dawson (organ), and John Cockerill
The duets recordings were generally of musical comedy, operetta and
popular songs of the day arranged as duets such as Dearest
of all by Vernon Latham Sharp and Too
tired to sleep by Alan Murray. There were also duet
arrangements of instrumental pieces by Chopin and Liszt, and a charming duet of
Mendelssohn’s lied “On Wings of Song”.
Which ones are my favourites ? Why does the God of Israel sleep? from
the oratorio, Samson by Handel is one of my favourites. It
illustrates Webster’s amazing vocal technique and dramatic power. He was a
prolific recording solo artist and a highly regarded oratorio soloist.
Excerpt from an Australian newspaper – March 11 1950
Shortly after Webster began recording for HMV in 1929, critics in Gramophone magazine
praised his voice but thought he should be singing songs more worthy of
it. In April 1937, a critic wrote, “Gradually Webster Booth is finding his
rightful place as a member of the solo quartet in our concert halls, when the
choral masterpieces are given. Only the other day a severe critic of
English singing singled out Mr Booth as one of the very few elect.”
Most people remember Webster Booth for the romantic duets he sang
with Anne Ziegler on record, stage, screen and radio but several
derogatory comments have been made about his duet partnership with Anne, most
people claiming that he would be better regarded as a serious singer today had
he not formed the Variety Act with Anne in 1940. Anne was the first to
admit that she had a “ten-a-penny” soprano voice while his voice was in a
different category from hers. She was aware that many people thought she had
They went into variety because it paid far better than more serious
forms of entertainment and they had expensive family financial commitments.
Within a very short time they became very popular with those who enjoyed
hearing operetta and musical comedy duets sung by a very handsome and charming
couple. Anne and Webster were a romantic pair and their variety act took the
public’s mind off the daily grind of war for an hour or two. While Anne’s voice
might not have been in the same class as Webster’s, one cannot deny that they
sang the duets musically and their voices complemented one another.
Webster did not drop his oratorio singing and it was while he and Anne were
singing in Variety and Harold Fielding concerts that he made some of his finest
serious oratorio recordings. He was one of Sir Malcolm Sargent’s favourite tenors and was chosen by
Sir Malcolm to sing at his sixtieth birthday celebration concert in 1955.
Webster was a lyric tenor with excellent diction and a wide vocal range.
Although his voice was light it filled the Albert Hall, a hall with a
notoriously difficult acoustic for singers. He had a pleasing baritonal quality
in the lower range of his voice and, in later years, fulfilled a long-held
ambition to sing the baritone solos in a performance of Elijah in Knysna, South
If one listens to his recordings of Mozart operatic arias and the
operatic duets with baritone, Dennis Noble in Puccini’s La
Bohème and Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, and
the extracts from Bizet’s Carmen with Dennis Noble, Nancy
Evans, Noel Eadie and the Sadlers Wells chorus, he more than held his own among
the foremost operatic singers of the day. Perhaps he would not have managed
heavier operatic roles on stage but he had a voice ideal for Mozart, Rossini,
Gounod, and Handel.
At that time it was the convention to record everything in English on
the HMV plum label, but I have a recording of him singing in an Italian which
sounds quite acceptable to me, so I don’t think singing in a foreign language
would have presented a problem to him. He was also a highly competent musician,
so he would have had no difficulty learning an operatic role. As a young man he
was keen to sing in opera, but opera did not pay as well as lighter forms of
entertainment. In 1926 Sir Malcolm Sargent told him that if he did not have a
private income he should leave opera alone. Webster’s older sister, Doris
(known as Nellie) was very disappointed that he did not make a career in opera.
I have an LP called Famous British Tenors in my
collection. Webster sings the rather obscure aria, O,
Vision Entrancing from Esmeralda by Goring
Thomas, while his peers are heard in more popular arias. Despite this he still
sounds very much better than most of those who are spoken off in hallowed
tones, while Webster is dismissed as a light-weight, a mere romantic duettist!
Webster managed to set the appropriate mood for each song he sang,
whether it was a light ballad or a profound aria. One only has to
contrast Total Eclipse from Handel’s Samson with
Percy French’s Phil the Fluter’s Ball to see a
complete change of mood. He certainly was a versatile singer, but far from
being “A jack of all trades, master of none,” I suggest that he was a master in
command of every song he sang.
Once Anne and Webster’s
recording contract with HMV was cancelled in 1951 they made a few recordings
for Decca and gradually their 78s were deleted from the record
But in the late
fifties several long playing records were issued, comprising their popular duet
recordings. Love Duets from Theatreland was issued by EMI in the UK, while, in South Africa, a similar
record, entitled Sweethearts of Song was issued, with sleeve notes by their friend, Leslie Green.
translated into Afrikaans and, instead of the orchestral accompaniment on the
78s, there was organ and piano accompaniment by Jack Dowle and John Massey.
This record was entitled Net Maar ‘n Roos (Only a Rose).
In 1963 they
made Nursery School Sing-Along (No 2). This time Heinz Alexander was the accompanist and
the Nazareth House Children’s Chorus was conducted by my piano teacher, Sylvia
Sullivan. Webster thought highly of Mrs Sullivan’s conducting and insisted that
she conducted all the songs for the record.
Webster’s was included in Famous British Tenors issued in 1972. Webster sings the rather obscure aria, O,
Vision Entrancing from Esmeralda by Goring
Thomas, while his peers are heard in more popular arias. He was rather put
out about this as he thought the powers-that-be might have chosen a more
popular aria for his recording. Perhaps recording techniques had not been very
advanced for some of the other tenors on the recording sound rather thin.
Webster’s recording sounds very much better than most of the other
recordings by those who are spoken off in hallowed tones, while Webster is so
often dismissed as a light-weight, a mere romantic duettist!
the late sixties. All the recordings had been taken from the collection of
Scott Sheldon. Webster played me this record when I visited the Booth home in
Knysna in 1973 and I was delighted to hear some songs I had not heard
He told me that EMI
would never issue an LP of his more serious work until he was dead, but in
1977, just such a recording was issued. He was very pleased that he was alive
to see it, but was rather put out because it was recommended that the record
should be filed under the historical section of the catalogue!
eighties. Sweethearts in Song included the same recordings as those from the late fifties, while
the other, Music for Romance was a more interesting collection of their lesser-known
Webster Booth died on Anne Ziegler’s birthday, 21 June 1984 in Penrhyn Bay, North Wales. A year or so later EMI issued The Golden Age of Webster Booth.
Songs, featuring Webster and some of his contemporaries was issued. Webster
sang Tosti’s Parted on this LP.
He was also featured in the Irving Berlin Centenary Celebration by the great British dance bands, singing two songs in a Waltz Medley, with Ray Noble conducting the New Mayfair Orchestra.
By 1989 Webster’s earlier recordings were coming out of their fifty-year copyright and solo and duet CD
compilations were issued by EMI and independent companies during the nineties.
Because these recordings were out of copyright, Anne did not receive any royalties from their sale.
Most of the videos featuring Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth have been
uploaded by me. My channel is at http://www.youtube.com/duettists
castaway on 3 April 1953. Unfortunately this episode is not yet available
as a podcast, but I am hoping that it might be added some time. Webster’s
choice of discs were, as follows:
Jean Sibelius: Finlandia, Philharmonia Orchestra
get your gun), Ethel Merman
Franz Liszt: Liebesträum
No. 3 in A flat major: vocal version sung by Tito Schipa
Charles N. Daniels: Chloe (Song of the Swamp):Spike Jones and His City Slickers
Frances Allitsen: The Lute Player, Harold Williams (baritone)
Gilbert and Sullivan: The Yeoman of the Guard, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
Orchestra Conductor: Malcolm Sargent
George Frederic Handel: Ombra mai fu (Largo) (from Xerxes): Kathleen Ferrier (contralto)London Symphony Orchestra Conductor: Malcolm Sargent
London Philharmonic Orchestra
The Tito Schipa recording of Liebestraum was
the same arrangement as Webster himself had recorded.
Webster considered Australian baritone, Harold Williams to
be one of the finest singers of the role of Elijah in
Mendelssohn’s oratorio of the same name.
confined to her bed due to illness. Webster had admired her voice greatly and had been looking forward to singing a Messiah with her as
contralto soloist. Sadly she had to cancel this engagement due to ill health and she died less than seven months after this broadcast, on 8 October 1953.
At that time the copyright on Gilbert’s words was still in place, so it would only have been possible to play the overture of The
Yeomen of the Guard.
The BBC website lists the soloist in Comfort ye/Ev’ry Valley as Walter Booth rather than Webster Booth!
A number of the recordings Webster chose were conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. Sargent was Webster’s champion and chose him for many oratorio performances. In 1955, on the occasion of Sir Malcolm’s sixtieth birthday, he personally requested that Webster should be the soloist at the concert to commemorate this event.
Castaways who chose recordings by Anne Ziegler and/or Webster Booth. Click on the Castaway’s name to listen to the broadcast (if available)
Miriam Rothschild (Conservationist, biologist) 23
Bill Shankly (Manager Liverpool FC, athlete, football manager) 26 April
Concert Performer, Roosters Concert Party) 17 August 1964: Roses of Picardy (Haydn Wood) With Fred Hartley and his Quintet
Ursula Bloom (Novelist, writer, journalist)
14 November 1960:
*R.C. Sherriff (Playwright and writer) 23 August
1955: Miserere from Il Trovatore (Verdi) with
Joan Cross, Webster Booth
*Ellaline Terris (Actress) 24 June 1952: WEBSTER BOOTH: I LEAVE MY HEART
IN AN ENGLISH GARDEN (PARR DAVIES)
*Leslie Henson (Comedy actor) 18 July
1951: Olive Gilbert, Peter Graves, Webster Booth, Helen Hill
There was a break in broadcasting Desert Island Discs between 1946 and 1951
half-plate film negative, 1940
*Pat Kirkwood (Actress)
26 February 1942: Serenade (Schubert)
*Desert Island Discs marked with an asterisk do not have podcasts available in the BBC4 Archives search.
Someone asked me the other day how many Booth-Ziegler recordings I had in my
collection. Rather than count them up, I compiled a list of those which are not
in my collection. If anyone has any of these recordings, I would be delighted
to receive an MP3 of it and will gladly send them an MP3 of one of mine in
Sanctuary of the Heart/Ketelby; He Bought My Heart At Calvary/Hamblen with
choir of St Stephen’s Church Dulwich, Fela Sowande (organ) June 1952
Serenata, Macushla Reginald Paul, C Studio, Small Queens Hall, London, 20
Recently acquired: Love Passes By and As I sit here
B8476 I’m all alone/May; I’ll wait for you/ Feiner, September 1936
B9030 When You Wish Upon a Star/Pinocchio/ Harline; Rosita/Kennedy/Carr, 1939
B9271 Will You Go with Me?/Brandon-Park/Murray,Gerald Moore 1942
JG282 Songs our boys sang/National savings sing-song/Sydney Burchall, Clarence Wright, Webster Booth
B9502 All Soul’s Day/ Richard Strauss; Memory Island/ Harrison/ Gerald Moore, September 1946
C2814 Neapolitan Nights, Light Opera Company with Webster Booth
C2827 Memories of Tosti/La Scala Singers with Webster Booth
Ave Maria/Schubert, Ernest Lush (unpublished) – Also recorded on 11 August 1939
Here Comes the Bride Selection/Schwartz/Light Opera Company with Alice Moxon, Stuart
Robertson, Webster Booth, George Baker/Ray Noble/Studio C, Small Queens Hall,
London/Cc18897-4, 25 March 1930 (Number unknown)
(Compiler) Webster Booth
and Anne Ziegler: Excerpts from Gramophone and Discography MY LULU
Plomley, R (with Derek Drescher) Desert
Island Lists, Hutchinson, 1984
Most of the recordings on clypit.com were restored by Mike Taylor.
Join: The Golden Age of Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler and Friends on Facebook.
Updated: 16 January 2017.
template. Powered by Blogger.